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CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 29: Brandon Brown, driver of the #68 Brandonbilt Foundations Chevrolet, waits on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco Uniforms at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2021 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) | Getty Images
CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 29: Brandon Brown, driver of the #68 Brandonbilt Foundations Chevrolet, waits on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco Uniforms at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2021 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) | Getty Images

From Uncertainty to Playoff Battle, Brandon Brown Experiences a Whirlwind of Emotions in 2021

By Dustin Albino

Brandon Brown is determined to make the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs for the second straight year, going from an unknown face to one who is now one of the sport’s most popular underdogs. 

Last year, Brown had a breakout season in the Xfinity Series, hanging onto the final playoff spot. Come season’s end, he finished 11th in the championship standings ahead of Riley Herbst, one of the Joe Gibbs Racing entries. That’s a big deal for the family-owned Brandonbilt Motorsports, which includes just eight full-time employees. 

But even that didn’t guarantee Brown anything. And entering the 2021 Xfinity Series season with a lack of sponsorship, the team wasn’t sure how long it could stay afloat. Ultimately, BMS was going to race until it couldn’t go any longer. 

“At the beginning of the season, there was a point where the market was so bad and we were like, ‘We might make it to Charlotte, if we’re lucky,'” Brown recently told Jayski.com. “When dad (Jerry Brown, team owner) and I had that call, I broke down in tears. It was right before Daytona.

“We talked about the partnerships that we had and where we were standing financially as a family. I’ve told dad before, ‘Don’t go broke doing this. You and mom have to retire. Pull the plug on racing; I’ll figure it out. I’ll figure my life out.’”

For Jerry, having that conversation with his son was devastating. But the only way the team would survive was with a chunk of additional funding. 

The possibility of shutting down the team was even tougher knowing that people make their living because of their existence. 

“You’re talking about a lot of people that would be out of work,” Jerry said. “We have the whole team and everything that goes along with it. Shutting down would mean they’re all out of work, and you’re also talking about putting your son out of work. If we weren’t able to garner some sort of support in sponsorship, I just wasn’t going to be able to carry it on.”

In the past, Jerry confirmed the team had talks of potentially shutting down. But not to the magnitude of having a “drop dead date,” knowing BMS wouldn’t last any longer. 

Knowing the uncertainty of the team, it became a full-court press to find funding, with a goal of hitting $2 million in order to run competitively. 

“I basically said we need to get everyone to step up to the plate because I’m not in the sport to just be there,” Jerry said. “I’m in it to win it. If we’re there, we’re there to race. I’m not in it to be a seat filler.”

And even though BMS made the playoffs in 2020, finding sponsorship during a pandemic isn’t an easy task. In the past, other family teams, such as RSS Racing and Jeremy Clements Racing, scored a full-time sponsor after making the postseason. 

But since the end of May, Brandonbilt Motorsports has formed relationships with five new companies from a sponsorship standpoint: Midwest Construction, KickinTheTires.net, The Garrett Companies, Sim Seats and Baby Dogecoin. 

Some of those companies were attracted to BMS because of a video Brown made for social media, posing as a car salesman hoping to attract sponsorship.

With more than 2.2 million impressions and 367,000 views on Twitter, it’s safe to say that video was a success. 

“I needed something different than leaving it blank or ‘Sponsor me,'” Brandon said. “I wanted ‘For Sale.’ The guy that was doing our car wraps said, ‘You should make a car salesman video.’ I thought that was a great idea, so Mac MacLeod (head of public relations at BMS) and I bounced some ideas off each other.

“After we nailed something down, we showed up to the shop and said, ‘Alright, let’s do this.’ We were thinking we needed it to be as cheesy as possible.”

Showing off his innovation, Brown’s email blew up immediately for all the right reasons.

Jerry said, “We had to get more storage in the email box to hold them all. Literally, we had to buy more storage for his email because it took up the storage pretty quick.

“We’re having some great conversations now, and the country is starting to open up a little bit, so it’s helping a lot. Everything is looking really promising, even though we haven’t nailed that full season sponsor.”

At time of publication, Brown has five races left to sell for the remainder of the 2021 season, but is nearing deals for some of those events as well.

On the performance side, Brown is bettering his standout numbers from 2020. With 15 races remaining on the Xfinity schedule, the No. 68 team already has a pair of top-five and seven top-10 finishes (both career highs for a single season). 

However, with a disappointing 31st-place finish last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Brown dropped to 14th on the playoff grid, 56 markers below the cutline. 

Even with the solid statistics, the Xfinity Series field is deep this season. But the inconsistency can be troubling and hinders the team from gaining points.   

“It’s one of those things where it’s like, ‘Man, I’m still not in the playoffs yet?’” Brown said of his season. “So it’s like, ‘Is it going to have to take a win to get in this year?’ “Statistically, it shows the best. But sometimes, you don’t feel that way when issues happen on track.”

Doug Randolph, crew chief of the No. 68 team, labels the season as “feast and famine.” But some of the aforementioned inconsistency has affected the team’s shot at making the playoffs. 

“We’re definitely on schedule to have significantly more top 10s and top fives from last year,” Randolph said. “That was all the goals we set out to do. I felt like we could make the playoffs this year. We knew we were going to have to do better than last year, so we’re borderline on that.”

Jerry believes the team still has time to race itself into the postseason. 

“A couple of things haven’t gone our way – bad luck – that’s put us below the cutline,” he said. “Without those, we’d be in the playoffs trying to protect our spot. I feel pretty confident that we’re going to push our way through and make up those points.”

But Randolph stated the team has to be honest with each other, knowing the Xfinity field is stout this season. Placing inside the top 10, he believes, is overachieving. 

“If everyone is running and we go strictly off of speed, we’re right there 14th or 15th every week,” Randolph said. “You have to figure out a way to make up five, 10 spots. Sometimes, that’s capitalizing on other people’s mistakes, and sometimes that’s making a pit call, or Brandon making the right move to get that.”

Whether or not the No. 68 team makes the postseason for the second consecutive season is to be determined. But Brown hopes his performances have stood out, in case another team calls down the road. 

Running for one of the bigger teams in the series or moving to the Cup Series one day is on Brown’s radar of something he wants to accomplish. After all, he and BMS are separate entities. 

“There’s going to be a time where I’m hoping to go race on Sundays or go race with someone else and have someone else take over the [No.] 68,” he said. “If I can’t grow [Brandonbilt Motorsports] myself by getting sponsors into this door and somebody else has it, bring them in. I’ll do my best to leverage a larger, more established organization with sponsorship.”

Jerry confirmed his son’s comments, noting he hopes they can one day be a multi-team organization.

He said, “The ultimate goal is to become a two-car team. Two competitive cars, not one car paying for the other, but two cars that are both going to be competitive.” 

The series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend, where Brown finished 16th in his lone start at the track in 2019.